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AN IRISH FRIEND AND THE CIVIL WAR By David Large* No one doubts that one of the vital factors in the outcome of the American Civil War was European opinion. Intervention by Great Britain or by France would have established the Confederacy , and such intervention might reasonably have been expected. It did not materialize, and hence "the study of the sentiment of these countries ... is essential to the understanding of our civil war," as Professor S. E. Morison wrote in 1931.1 This paper attempts to reveal a hitherto unknown source of the pro-Southern sentiment in Britain that made the year 1862 a critical period in the history of Britain's attitude to the Civil War, and, at the same time, offers some explanation of why humanitarian and religious opinion was so slow and hesitant in revealing itself on the slavery issue. The source referred to above is a small collection of letters that has just come to light, chiefly written by an Irish Friend, Joshua E. Todhunter, during the Civil War.2 He was in business in New York as a distributor and salesman of ducks, drills, damasks, poplins , and other textiles, and among the British firms for whom he acted as agent was that of Pim Brothers of Dublin, manufacturers of these goods. Joshua E. Todhunter was brother-in-law of Jonathan Pim, a partner in the firm of which his brother Thomas was the head. Jonathan Pim was a prominent Dublin Friend who had won much respect in Ireland for his great labors to help the victims of the Famine through the relief committee of the Society of Friends. He was to be elected one of the members of Parliament for Dublin in 1865.3 It was to his brother-in-law that Joshua E. *David Large, M.A., B. Litt., is Lecturer in History, University of Dublin. 1 Donaldson Jordan and Edwin J. Pratt, Europe and the American Civil War (London, 1931), introduction, p. xi. 2 1 have to thank Mr. Jonathan Pim of Dublin for his kindness in allowing me to examine and quote from these letters. 3 Frederic Boase, Modern English Biography, II, sub Jonathan and Thomas Pim. 20 An Irish Friend and the Civil War21 Todhunter wrote regularly, transmitting news and his views on the Civil War. Jonathan Pim in turn passed on his letters to his wide circle of friends, who included Friends in many parts of Britain and a number of politicians, among them being William Henry Gregory, M.P. Gregory was an Irish landowner who stood out prominently as an active apologist for the South in the House of Commons. He was the first M.P. to attempt to move the government to recognize the Confederacy in 1861, and throughout 1862 acted as one of the closest advisers of Mason, the Confederate envoy in Britain, making several serious efforts in Parliament to push the government into a position more favorable to the South. W. H. Gregory was a popular figure in the Commons, probably due to his eminence as a racing man and a fashionable figure in society. He had spent several months in the United States in 1859, returning with a deepened distrust of "democracy," that paved the way for his later hostility to the second Reform Bill when he became one of the Adullamites.4 As a letter of Gregory's reveals, he read Mr. Todhunter 's letters and made use of them. "I am anxious," he wrote to Jonathan Pim on 29 July 1862, "that Mr. Gladstone and some of the ministers should read it and afterwards I intend it for my friend Mr. W. Forster's perusal. I say my friend Mr. Forster, as although we take different parts on the subject of the American question, we are excellent friends and both of us are equally animated by an uncompromising disapproval of slavery. ... In the independence of the Southern republic I see the solution, which I once almost despaired ever to see diminished, of the great evil. Mr. Todhunter's letter is most remarkable; he seems so thoroughly to understand the whole bearing of the case. ... It would really seem as if I had studied...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1504
Print ISSN
0033-5053
Pages
pp. 20-29
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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